Last in a series.
Stone Bridge Athletic Director Dave Hembach remembers walking into the Bulldogs' main gymnasium one day this summer and seeing Jenn White, the school's head athletic trainer, staring up at the walls and jotting furiously on a notepad. At the time, he had no idea what she was up to.
On Monday, when the new school year officially began, he found out.
White had been designing a new T-shirt that will be worn this season by her athletic training staff. The message on the shirt -- one of which was on Hembach's desk by Monday afternoon -- summarizes what has been a whirlwind five years for Stone Bridge's athletic department. It reads: "2 state championships, 4 regional championships, 25 district championships, 1 awesome athletic training staff."
"I wanted to come up with a new design and have it be something not just about the training staff, but something shared that links the entire athletic department," White said.
What she found was the kind of defining success that quickly vaulted Stone Bridge to the top of the AA Dulles District as one of the league's most successful athletic programs.
"In think we've exceeded my expectations, and that's saying something because I had high expectations," volleyball coach Jill Raschiatore said. "But the number of district championships we've won in five years . . . it's pretty impressive."
Thirteen of the Bulldogs' 24 varsity sports teams (including cheerleading) have claimed a AA Dulles District championship since the school opened in 2000, including multiple titles in baseball, boys' tennis, cheerleading, football, girls' lacrosse, girls' swimming, girls' track and volleyball. Their championship trophies and team photos cover one side of the hallway adjacent to the Bulldogs' gymnasium. On the other side of the Hall of Fame hang large action photos of the 13 individual athletes who have earned all-state honors.
"Most people, when you open a new school, tell you that it's not until about year four, when you've got your first senior class that has been in the school all four years, that you find some success," Hembach said. "I think that's the norm. But we were winning district titles the second year, and by the third year it just really took off."
It is yet to be seen if Stone Bridge can maintain such success this season as it moves out of the Dulles District and into the AAA Liberty. But Hembach said he certainly expects that the Bulldogs will continue to flourish because the defining characteristics of the program -- a highly committed coaching staff and community -- have not changed.
"It's a group effort around here," Hembach said. "We were very fortunate, from the start, that we are right here in the Ashburn Farm community, and from day one people came out to the games to support us. That was a big plus. And it helps, too, that the coaches are really supportive of each others' programs. Many of them are head coaches in one sport and assistants in another, so they get to see what works for other programs."
Baseball coach Sam Plank, who also works as an assistant football coach, says such dedication on the part of the coaches has proved contagious.
"All you have to do is come around here after school or in the summer, and you'll see why we've won," Plank said. "We put in more hours than any other school in the county, I guarantee it. Our coaches are committed, and our players have jumped on board, too. That's been the key."